Tuesday, February 8, 2011

India Raids Holy Money To Karmapa - 1

By Manuwant Choudhary

McLeodganj, Dharamsala: The road leading to the Dalai Lama's residence has always been busy but this time there is an unease evident as I take a photo of the Karmapa from a CD being sold on the roadside, the young tibetan CD seller Nwalkho burst out almost apologetic, "You are taking his photo because of all the foreign money found at Karmapa residence. It was so simple...they just had to take it to the bank and put it there."

Not quite simple as that.

But to the simple minds of Tibetans a daily shout from the Indian media saying their Karmapa is a Chinese spy has shocked them but with a confused disbelief.

A Ladhaki Buddhist girl said, "So many TV crew are on this road but no one speaks to them. Everyone is so scared."

I travelled to Mcleodganj, which is on the upper reaches of Dharamsala, to tell the other side of this story.

So I met Mr. Penpa Tsering - a Member of Parliament of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile. The Tibetan parliament meets only twice a year in September and March. But when there is no parliament in session there is an 11 member standing committee of parliament empowered to take important decisions.

So when the story broke that 6 crore rupees worth of money was found at the Karmapa residence which included money from 25 foreign countries, the 11 member committee led by Mr. Penpa Tsering met on January 28, 2011.

Mr. Penpa Tsering is the Speaker, "We met and discussed the matter following which we met the Karmapa and found him to be in a calm mood. We went there to not just enquire but also to express our solidarity with him."

The Karmapa's first reaction on meeting the committee was, "I do not know whats really happening."

He then told the committee, "I do not deal with financial matters."

It is at the age of 16 in late 1999 that Ogyen Trinley Dorje escapes from Chinese controlled Tibet into exile to India. He first meets the Dalai Lama on arriving in India and the Indian government grants him a refugee status.

Mr. Tsering explains, "the Tibetan-parliament-in-exile does not interfere with the workings of the various religious sects, but one thing we can say is that the Karmapa is not a Chinese spy."

"The money that has been found is simply the offerings made to him by his followers. "

Initially when the Karmapa arrived, a trust was set up in 2003 called the Saraswati Trust. Then in 2006 another trust was set-up called the Karma Garchae Trust and in 2009 it is the Karma Garchae trust that applied for blanket permission for recieving foreign contributions under Foriegn Contributions Regulations Act.

But so far the permissions have not come.

Mr. Tsering goes on, "Then there is something called the Labrang. All high Lamas have this and this is basically unregistered and under the management committee of the monastery. All offerings collected by the Labrang personnel are put in a box and on a given day the responsible persons of the Labrang make an inventory of offerings."

"Since the FCRA permissions have not come in they cannot go and deposit it in the bank or return it to the disciples who made the offerings."

Mr. Tsering says the Tibetan parliament-in-exile holds that the Karmapa is personally not involved in this and even as patron of the trusts his name is not there on the Trust Board. "Earlier it was there but it was later removed since patrons cannot be on the Trust Board."

The Himachal Pradesh police have seized the 6 crore rupees and arrested Shakti Lama(alias Chosang Dhargy), the cashier to the Labrang. They also detained a property owner Mr. Bhardwaj but released him later but detain two of his representatives.

The Himachal Pradesh police suspect Karmapa's china links because of the Chinese Yuan's found, but Mr. Tsering says, "Of the 6 crore rupees found less than a crore was Chinese Yuan. There are Buddists in China also and even Tibetan pilgrims from china offer Yuans."

Police are probing a hawala angle to this.

But on the interpol website there is an interesting case study which says Hawala is a legitimate way to transfer money and it existed long before the banking system came into being. You could give the money to an agent in one country and the beneficiary would recieve it in another country by another agent without the money having actually travelled.

So in the case of the Karmapa, money has travelled from 25 countries, hence its not hawala.

It is money brought in by pilgrims and offered to the Karmapa, unsolicited.

If it was hawala money would have come to him in Indian currenny and he would have deposited the same in the banks without any fuss.

The Dalai Lama who has himself had an unblemished 50 years in India as an exiled leader has said the money is for charity.

The Karmapa on his arrival in India had gone straight to meet the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Lama had received him warmly.

The Dalai Lama has done more for India's positive image than all our politicians and I am not sure why we want to fritter away the goodwill.

The Tibetans have been grateful to India to a fault.

I am a critic of Jawaharlal Nehru but his single great act was to grant asylum to the Dalai Lama and his people fleeing Chinese oppression, even at the risk of the Chinese declaring war on India.

But todays Congressmen have no such courage.

India's home minister Mr. P Chidambaram says this on the Karmapa, "I have not concluded anything so I cannot share my conclusions with you."

But I have not heard the Indian government say anything on the Karmapa.

The Chinese government says the Karmapa is not a Chinese spy and India's suspicion only indicates India's deep distrust towards China.

The Indian media say the Karmapa plans to build `China freindly' monasteries across the Himalayas.

I disagree.

I would think we have a `China friendly' government.

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